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Asian Markets Close Mixed, Japan Stuck in Negative Territory

Asian markets were mixed Monday, as investors stayed cautious in spite of reassuring statements by U.S. President George W. Bush and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on sheltering the economy from the turmoil in the markets.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average closed in negative territory while South Korea's KOSPI finished 0.5% higher and Singapore's Straits Times Index ended the day 0.2% lower.

Singapore Airlines kept the broader market afloat, rising more than 2% after it and its parent, Temasek Holdings, both paid US$918 million for a combined 24% stake in China Eastern Airlines. The carrier's Hong Kong-listed H-shares shot up, doubling to a record high at HK$7.50.

However, this was not sufficient to prop-up the Hang Seng Index. It closed down 0.3%.

Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining climbed 2.7% to an intraday high of 2,390 yen on media reports the nonferrous metals smelter will likely post a group recurring profit of 118.4 billion yen ($1.02 billion) for the April-September first half, up 24% from a year earlier and 27.4 billion yen higher than its original forecast.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was flat at 6,249. Financials received a boost by U.S. President's and Federal Chairman's comments.

Construction firm Leighton Holdings jumped 8% to A$48.50 during the session, after it said it will buy a 45% stake in one of the Middle East's biggest engineering firms, Al Habtoor Engineering in a deal worth A$870 million ($707 million).

Meantime, Healthcare firm Symbion Health added 2.9% to A$4.28 after Primary Health Care said it was considering a joint bid for Symbion, challenging an agreed A$2.9 billion ($2.4 billion) offer from rival Healthscope. Healthscope shares were up more than 2% at A$5.60, while Primary Health's stock rose as much as A$11.18.

Taiwan stocks retreated from a three-week high. High Tech Computer, the world's largest smartphone maker, defied market weakness, to climb 4.5% after saying it will hold a news conference with U.S.-based Qualcomm Chief Executive Officer Paul Jacobs on Wednesday. Local media had speculated that the two firms were expected to announce an alliance.